This was the tenth week of session. With this being the first week post-crossover, we focused on Senate bills. As expected, we’ve dealt with the good, the bad and the ugly.
Save the Date – Last Virtual Town Hall
We will be having our last town hall of the 2023 Legislative Session on Thursday April 13th at 7pm. State Senator Sonya Halpern and I will bring you the latest news from the Gold Dome post-session and answer any of your questions. You can register here.
This week I was accompanied by a special page. Lailah is the daughter of former member, and my friend, Alisha Morgan Searcy. It was great to spend time with both of them. Lailah is 15-years-old and wants to be a veterinarian when she grows up.
Hateful Targeting of Transgender Youth
Thursday was a sad day in the House. On Tuesday, the House Public Health Committee heard SB140. Then, less than 48 hours later, and with less than an hour’s notice, this bill landed on the House floor. Despite the complex medical issues involved, the presenter of the bill took questions from only two members. This bill aims to prohibit certain treatment of gender dysphoria, such as hormone replacement therapies and sex reassignment surgeries.
This bill targets the transgender youth of Georgia, an already vulnerable group, and will undoubtedly lead to a spike in suicide and black market drugs. Proponents of this bill feel as if this legislation would keep children safe, and protect them from possible future regret from irreversible procedures. It is not the place of the Georgia legislature to impose itself on the decisions made by parents and doctors. This bill not only takes the right away from parents to make decisions for their children but also further isolates children dealing with gender dysphoria.
I find the bill particularly insulting to parents. The bill assumes a scenario where a child alone is making a decision to take hormones replacements or surgery, or where parents rush to agree to surgery without significant time spent in therapy and considering other options. As a parent myself, I ache for parents grappling with the difficult decisions that this bill pretends happen with flippant thought. And as a professional, I am offended for doctors who practice and research and consider treatment options while this bill is written by people with no medical training and who ignored medical professionals begging Georgia not to take this step. Indeed, only one medical professional testified in favor of this bill and that doctor admitted to never treating any gender dysphoria patients.
I don’t pretend that this bill deals with a simple issue. It is complicated and with heart wrenching implications. But I also know that we are taught “not to lean on our own understanding.” Because I know that parents and doctors know best, I lean on them, and they overwhelmingly tell us this bill is bad for kids.
Update on HOPE
As discussed before, Governor Kemp recommended funding for HOPE Scholarships and Grants at 100% tuition—something that has not occurred since 2011. However, the House has proposed and passed a version of the budget covering only 95%, leaving only those with certain academic achievements (1200 SAT scores) to get full tuition. Qualifying for HOPE is already a big achievement and to make this cut is taking away from these academic accolades at a time when we more than have the funding to cover all HOPE students at 100%. Read more here.
Other Votes this Week
Below is a list of legislation that passed in the House this last week. I voted yes on each of these bills.
SB193 would allow for the facilitation of state and federal broadband funding to lead to more and faster coverage for more Georgians. I wish we were doing more, but I’m glad we are taking this step.
SB55 also known as the Lemonade Stand Act, would allow children to sell non-consumable goods, pre-packaged food items and non-alcoholic beverages, such as lemonade, without requiring permits, licenses or incurring taxes as long as the annual revenue is less than $5,000. A win for kids!
SB46 would require prenatal syphilis and HIV testing to be administered by health care providers at multiple points throughout a pregnancy. The state already requires this testing to take place after a baby is born, but this bill would require medical providers to test for these two infections during a pregnant mother’s first appointment and again between 28-32 weeks of gestation.
SB128 would allow the Peace Officers’ Annuity and Benefit fund to increase the maximum amount of assets invested in alternative investments from 10 percent to 15 percent. This change is made at the request of those covered by this fund.
SB84 would require investment advisors or supervisory professionals to notify the Secretary of State’s Office if they suspect that an adult over 65 years old with mental or physical incapacitation, dementia or Alzheimer’s disease is being exploited financially. The investment advisor could also inform one of the victim’s designated contacts about the situation if such person is not considered a suspect. To prevent individuals from taking advantage of these vulnerable citizens, the investment advisor could delay/deny suspicious disbursement requests. After stopping a suspicious payment, the advisor would have one week to investigate the request and report these findings to the state.
SB134 seeks to streamline some of the procedures in the foster care system by updating evidence codes for juvenile proceedings; specifically, the bill would allow minors to provide unsworn testimony for cases regarding the termination of parental rights.
SB3 or the “Reducing Barriers to State Employment Act of 2023,” aims to help attract more prospective state employees with different educational and professional backgrounds. This bill would require the Georgia Department of Administrative Services (DOAS) to regularly assess and reduce unnecessary educational, experiential and training requirements for positions within our state agencies and departments. While this bill does not entirely eliminate education requirements for state jobs, the DOAS would specifically work to reduce the number of job postings that require a four-year college degree as a condition of employment. This bill is a great recognition of the fact that you don’t need a four-year degree to do as many jobs as the job postings would presume. This will facilitate more Georgians making their way to a long-term careers.
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